So why do I teach Latin to my kids? That is a good question, and I am feeling it out as I go along, but my main motivation for even starting Latin is the fact that the great writers of the past learned Latin. If you Google the question of whether or not to teach Latin to people you will find many articles extolling the virtues of Latin as part of a rigorous, classical education.
They use to teach Latin and Greek to everyone who was educated, and people enjoyed reading Charles Dickens. They discontinued the practice and now people think books like “Hunger Games,” or the Twilight Series are amazing.
Since I wasn’t fortunate enough to be taught Latin as part of my education, I can’t fall back on personal testimony over whether Latin is worth my kids time or not yet (although my daughter is starting to see connections between words that I never saw), but I think it is worth the effort when I read articles like these:
How can I teach my kids Latin when I have no experience at all in the subject matter?
Well, happily, there are lots of Latin programs that are designed to be used with a teacher who doesn’t know the material. But for me this has also meant spending money on programs that just did not work out. Latin for Children (LfC) was like that for me.
On the surface, and after reading many reviews, I thought I had a winner with LfC. It had DVDs, so I was just the guide, not the teacher. It had pronunciation CDs and I could decide between either ecclesiastical or classical styles so students in my co-op could choose which style they liked the best. It had fun readers and lots of materials as well as cool online materials to supplement. I thought that I would be really successful with the materials.
Then I tried it for a school year. The idea behind the program is that you memorize a lot of material as a young student so that when you get to actually mastering principles of grammar you have a huge advantage. But for my kids it meant memorizing things outside of any usable framework or context. It also meant tons of review sessions because each lesson had a lot of memory work and I didn’t want to lose all of the words we had learned. Book A had 36 lessons or so to work through and all of them had a ton of memory work.
We gave it up after 10 lessons (one lesson a week) as it was clear that the other members of our co-op weren’t retaining any of the information and my kids were only retaining because we listened to the Latin CDs all. the. time. I don’t want to work through a curriculum for basic exposure and have nothing to show for all of our effort.
I want understanding to grow and be able to be built upon.
Enter The Form First series from Memoria Press. My 3rd grade daughter has had so much more success with this series than LfC. Each lesson explains the concept being taught so there is a context for the memory work, and there are plenty of worksheets to review the material. I haven’t had to do much with my daughter except have her work through the worksheets, do the oral drills, and either conjugate or decline the vocabulary (10 words) per lesson. I have been amazed by her progress. She even told me that she didn’t really understand what Latin was until we switched from LfC to First Form.
First Form is hard work and can be really monotonous, but Latin isn’t supposed to be fun and games. It is supposed to discipline the mind. How will that be done without having the student complete something they don’t want to do? My daughter sometimes groans when I tell her to get her Latin out, but then she tells me how proud she is of her Latin homework binder.
It forces attention to detail because when an assignment is graded a student sees the silly mistakes that were made and how that affects their grade. If a student doesn’t want to spend time correcting an assignment then being more meticulous becomes a virtue.
A parent that is looking for a more “fun” approach to learning a language, and who doesn’t have strong expectations of retention would probably prefer the fun approach from Latin for Children. But a parent who wants Latin to accomplish the goals listed in the articles I found will be much more satisfied with the Memoria Press version of Latin education.
Personally, if I were the first type of parent, I would teach my child Spanish or French as Latin doesn’t seem as useful unless it accomplishes the discipline, rigor, and precision its study promises. Just having a passing familiarity with a foreign language is good for when you go to a Mexican restaurant and remember hearing the word leche and feel excited that you vaguely remember it may mean “milk.”
Does that mean that I have sold off my LfC materials? No, I have them with my Minimus Latin materials because I used to be that mom that wanted every curriculum to be super fun. Maybe I will be able to pull them out and use them someday in some other context—I think Minimus looks like fun to just sit and read during a summer. And maybe one of my kids down the line will enjoy looking through the LfC materials. But for now First Form is doing the job admirably.
As a side note, I never received any of the materials for my reviews or opinion. I paid my own hard-earned cash and this is my own opinion after trying both options.